Jordan Gates, ’19, is Vice President of Outreach for the Darden Military Association, and we recently caught up with him to talk more about his MBA journey, how the DMA has shaped his time at Darden and his advice for military candidates considering an MBA. New to the blog? Be sure to check out our earlier post all about the DMA

How has the Darden Military Assocation (DMA) shaped your experience? 

Before I even moved to Charlottesville, the DMA helped me evaluate housing options, connected me with Darden alumni and gave me great advice on academic success at Darden. The DMA was the first club I contacted when deciding on Darden, and it remains one of my favorite aspects of my MBA experience.

For military members who may be considering a range of graduate school options, why MBA?

The MBA has allowed me to pursue my interests, and it has also exposed me to exciting career opportunities that I otherwise would not have known about. Darden is a case method school, with an emphasis on experiential learning, and this approach works better for me. I have learned far more from my classmates than I would have from memorizing textbooks. The military was an amazing opportunity for personal growth, but I left lacking business acumen, and the MBA has helped me fill in these gaps. After a year and a half at Darden, I know I made the right choice.

Any advice for military members as they evaluate their MBA options?

It sound cliché, but go where you fit. If you have questions about any school, there’s always someone willing to answer them, so reach out and do your homework. Darden is a great learning environment, and it has been a tremendous experience for me. This isn’t meant to say it’s the best place for everyone. To really get as much as you can out of this experience, it’s important to engage with classmates whose backgrounds and experiences differ from your own. “Fit” at Darden doesn’t mean you’re like everyone else – far from it. Those students who thrive here are really interested in what their peers bring to the table.

What would you want military members to know about Darden?

The curriculum at Darden is challenging. I did not study business as an undergraduate student, and the course material was entirely new to me. If you have the time now, look into accounting, finance and economics. That said, I didn’t take that advice and still learned a ton, and, at Darden, there’s a support structure in place to help you adjust to business school. In your first year, you will be assigned a Learning Team that consists of people with various backgrounds. My learning team was my lifeline throughout the core curriculum, and I’ve stayed close with my teammates even after completing the core.

What’s your favorite thing about Darden?

The community is great. I get to take classes with a very diverse and talented group of students who all come ready to participate and learn from each other. Outside of class, Charlottesville is the best city I can think of to spend two years in with amazing outdoors opportunities and numerous breweries and vineyards.